The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: We are losing Malta’s character

Friday, 2 December 2022, 11:51 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta has always been praised for its character.  The jewel of the Mediterranean always presented something unique, ranging from the country’s architecture to its personality.

The personality of the country is scarcely better evidenced than in the corner shops and haunts which have become household names across the country.  Places which exude a certain modesty, a certain warmth, a certain humbleness – a feeling when walking in that one is just where he or she is: home.

The modesty is found in the place’s environment which has scarcely changed in decades past - a welcome change from the clean, minimal and sometimes sterile style that has come to define modernity.

The warmth is found in the place’s shopkeeper or owner:  The person who recognises you at first sight, who maybe remembers your favoured order, who will share their recommendations with you or knock a couple of cents off the price here and there, who gives you a sense of comfort to the point that might even be drawn into sharing how your day is going with them.

The humbleness is found in that person’s attitude: the mainstays behind these shops and outlets who have worked day in, day out for decades, who have become such cornerstones of what Maltese society is truly about and have in many ways come to define it – but who will refuse any such moniker, saying that they’re just doing their job and fulfilling themselves in the relative satisfaction that simplicity brings.

These are traits that for many years have come to Maltese society.  Today though, how much modesty, warmth, and humbleness does our society maintain?

People seem to seek out all that is material and flashy: the newest iPhone or the latest Mercedes perhaps, just to show off one’s wealth and to show that one has apparently ‘made it’ in life.

Likewise, rather than being humble, society as a whole seems more intent on one-upmanship: it’s about the rat race – the hustle – to the top.  It’s not about how hard one works, it’s not about fulfilment of the soul – it’s about fulfilment of the wallet.

From a sense of gentle Maltese spring warmth – the pleasant type which you get on an April afternoon as the clouds clear away and the sun kisses the street – society seems to be veering more towards the unwelcoming bone-jarring, humid cold of the Maltese winter.

Reading stories – one after the other – that the traditional Maltese shops and outlets which have become known to generations cannot help but give this type of feeling.

This week, we can read about Valletta’s spice shop - Tal-Ħwawar – which has been open since 1888 closing its doors, with the new-age restaurants, cafes, and wine bars which now dominating the capital snuffing it out.

Last month it was the restaurant Il-Fanal in Marscascala which closed after 32 years, in September it was Charles Butcher in Naxxar which closed after 50 years, in August it was N. Caruana & Sons in Valletta which closed after 80 years.

There are still places like these alive and kicking, and it’s up to us as a population to continue to support them.

Each time such a shop does close its doors it is described as the “end of an era”, but maybe it’s time to consider that an era of Malta’s society as a whole has reached an end and that a new one is now dawning.

Is this new era better than the old one? Perhaps it is in some of the more material ways, but in a wider sense – it’s not the era which the soul craves.


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